Nietzsche and his views on philosophy and morality

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Nietzsche and his views on philosophy and morality
blackmask
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Posted Jul 10, 2011 - 1:11 PM:
Subject: Nietzsche and his views on philosophy and morality
Hey guys,

I have just finished reading Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. I have some questions regarding Nietzsche's philosophy that I could not understand. Why is Nietzsche so opposed to the views of Plato and Kant in the realms of philosophy and morality? And what, for him, are the fundamental differences between his postulated master and slave morality?

I know these questions are difficult to answer completely, but we were discussing them in our group and it was just confusing.

Thanks.

Edited by discoveryii on Jul 29, 2011 - 11:15 PM. Reason: grammar
Anthem
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Posted Jul 10, 2011 - 6:50 PM:

Here are my notes on distinguishing the master and slave moralities:
 

Nietzsche then attempts to establish the difference between the relationship of good and bad and good and evil.  An English psychologist by the name of John Stuart Mill claims that morality is conveyed through utilitarianism.  A dilemma that explains the idea that morality is conveyed through utilitarianism is the idea of ethical question of killing a person if it means it would save the lives of many more.  For instance, if given the opportunity to kill Hitler would you?  Doing so would save the lives of forty-seven million Jews.  From a utilitarian standpoint, killing Hitler is justified because it saves forty-seven million Jews.  From a deontological standpoint it is not justified because killing is wrong in and of itself.  The utilitarian perspective comes from the utility of doing something.  If the consequence of an action is useful (saving forty-seven million Jews) then it is justified.  If there is no use in killing someone, it is wrong.  This is from where one opinion on the distinction between good and bad is derived.  Mill claims that the idea of goodness comes from the weak (or bad).  If a strong (rich) person gives $5,000 dollars to a weak (poor) person, he or she is considered good by the weak person.  According to Mill, this is how the strong know they are good – the denotation from the weak.  This is a purely utilitarian concept because the weak person doesn’t think the strong person is useful unless the strong person is useful to the weak person.  Nietzsche doesn’t agree with this.  Nietzsche says the idea of goodness comes directly from those that are good.  Those that are good are strong, courageous, individual, socially superior and healthy.  Those that are bad are weak, cowardly, at the bottom of society and conform.  The strong are considered lions and the weak are considered lambs.  Nietzsche claims that the designation of …good" comes from what a vibrant life form (lion) feels about his or herself.  He claims the weak have no impact on the strong feeling good about themselves.  In Nietzsche’s opinion, the good are strong and the bad are weak.  From Christianity’s perspective, however, it is the opposite.  Those who are lions are evil, and those who are weak are good.  The Christian perspective is what Nietzsche claims to be a reactive morality.  This means the reaction of the fears of those who are strong (because they are weak) leads to Christianity’s denotation of good and evil.  The weak fear the strong, so the strong are evil.  This is also called the slave morality, while Nietzsche’s perspective is the master morality.  In the slave morality, the lambs are those that are good due to the fear of the strong.  In the master morality, the lions are the ones that are good because they are stronger.


I'm sure you've noticed that while Nietzsche surely is a philosopher, he is a bit of an anti-philosopher as well.  In Beyond Good and Evil, as the title suggests, Nietzsche is claiming that there is something beyond morality or the goodness or badness (value) of an action.  That is to say, while there is an arbitrary way of determining whether an action is good or evil, he claims it is essentially irrelevant its actual value.  Thus, some of the most notorious ethicists like Kant with his deontological ethics and those who support virtue ethics (like Plato and definitely Aristotle) do not appeal to Nietzsche.  I'm actually not finished with this book; I have had to focus on my summer classes which hasn't allowed me to go beyond Chapter 5 yet.  Thus, if anyone else wishes to correct me or annotate my understanding of the material, by all means, do so.

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Posted Jul 10, 2011 - 8:43 PM:

Anthem wrote:
if anyone else wishes to correct me or annotate my understanding of the material, by all means, do so.

Nietzsche says the idea of goodness comes directly from those that are good.  Those that are good are strong, courageous, individual, socially superior and healthy.  Those that are bad are weak, cowardly, at the bottom of society and conform.  The strong are considered lions and the weak are considered lambs.  Nietzsche claims that the designation of …good" comes from what a vibrant life form (lion) feels about his or herself.  He claims the weak have no impact on the strong feeling good about themselves.  In Nietzsche’s opinion, the good are strong and the bad are weak.

This is incorrect, as you'll find out most clearly after chapter 5 - in chapter 9, section 260.

Nietzsche is a moral relativist, he does not condone absolute morality - that would be an example of slave morality. He covers both slave and master morality as versions of judging good/bad & good/evil without falling for saying either one is "correct" or "best". More accurately, master morality deals in good and bad, and slave morality deals in good and evil:

The ruled classes are despicable and contemptible to the ruling classes. According to the ruling classes'  "that which is harmful to me is harmful in itself", the ruled classes are untrustworthy and doers of "bad". The ruling classes are able to inspire fear in the ruled classes, and are capable of "evil": they can restrict freedom, happiness and safety - all evils in the eyes of those of slave morality.

You'll have to explain why Nietzsche is "a bit of an anti-philosopher". Because he was a moral relativist and inverted the values of those such as Kant?

blackmask wrote:
I have just finished reading Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. But I do have some questions regarding Nietzsche's philosophy that I could not understand. Why is Nietzsche so opposed to the views of Plato and Kant in the realms of philosophy and morality? And what for him are the fundamental differences between his postulated master and slave morality?

I've broadly answered the second question above. There's lots of reasons why Nietzsche is so opposed to Kant, from his contentment with merely classifying and nothing more, to his inability to "dance" in thought and wording, to his slave morality - epitomised in his categorical imperative.

Nietzsche respected Plato for his philosophical creativity and his noble origins that show through his works. Whilst Nietzsche would counter concepts like Platonic forms, which conjure up thoughts of a world "beyond" appearance, he respects the quest for origins of appearance - as reflected by the value in the aristocratic blood origins. His main objection to Plato was what he saw as the influence of Socrates - a man who Nietzsche sees as a genius for symbolising the decay of Ancient Greece's "higher" society - a time that Nietzsche clearly looks upon fondly.

jsidelko
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Posted Jul 10, 2011 - 8:58 PM:

Nietzsche was, in my opinion, correct in rejecting Jesus' statement that the weak shall inherit the earth.  The only  thing wimpy losers inherit are the leftover shit from the strong.
Anthem
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Posted Jul 11, 2011 - 1:22 PM:

Thank you, Silhouette, for your response. 

The reason why I mention that he is a bit of an anti-philosopher is because he seems not to care for a lot of philosophy up to that point.  He seems to try to show gaps in it as if to expose it as bare-bones theories that answer questions, and he commonly refers to a new type of philosopher (in the future) that will perform in the discipline correctly.

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Posted Jul 11, 2011 - 2:22 PM:

Anthem wrote:
Thank you, Silhouette, for your response. 

The reason why I mention that he is a bit of an anti-philosopher is because he seems not to care for a lot of philosophy up to that point.  He seems to try to show gaps in it as if to expose it as bare-bones theories that answer questions, and he commonly refers to a new type of philosopher (in the future) that will perform in the discipline correctly.

No problem, he's an easy philosopher to misunderstand - especially first time round.

Many (all?) notable philosophers have countered their predecessors, which is what makes them notable - just like with scientists etc. They aren't being "anti" their subject, they are just expanding it beyond former constraints. It is merely conservative (as many are to this day) to say that the subjects ought to be only how they used to be...

The vigour with which Nietzsche critiques is perhaps outstanding, though he is revolutionary in just the same way as other philosophers have been and will continue to be. His philosophers of the future are just as much philosophers as he. You will get smoother picture of philosophy and Nietzsche's philosophy if you are able to understand him as a continuation of philosophy rather than a wild card.
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Posted Jul 22, 2011 - 12:30 PM:

jsidelko wrote:
Nietzsche was, in my opinion, correct in rejecting Jesus' statement that the weak shall inherit the earth.  The only  thing wimpy losers inherit are the leftover shit from the strong.


This is a gross misinterpretation of Nietzsche. He does not value physical or military strength, but rather strength of spirit. Read Walter Kaufman's "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist" for what is considered the best exposition of Nietzsche's philosophy (Kaufmann was definitely the most distinguished and respected Nietzsche translator and scholar).
John T. Chance
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Posted Jul 28, 2011 - 5:06 PM:

blackmask,

As the previous posts exhibit, Nietzche elicits endless interpretations,however, I tend to think the duplicitous nature of the proffered interpretations is what Nietzsche is all about. Please, list some of the passages from Beyond Good and Evil that you find to be the most interesting and apt for the discussion regarding Plato and Kant.

As for scholarly readers of Nietzsche, I'd recommend Deleuze and Stanley Rosen. Reasonably negotiating the two different, contrasting interpretations of Nietzsche will allow you to arrive at your own reading.

Edited by John T. Chance on Jul 29, 2011 - 1:49 AM
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Posted Jul 28, 2011 - 5:10 PM:

jsidelko wrote:
Nietzsche was, in my opinion, correct in rejecting Jesus' statement that the weak shall inherit the earth.  The only  thing wimpy losers inherit are the leftover shit from the strong.

Jesus didn't say the weak shall inherit the earth, he said the MEEK. Christian thought generally regards the meek as in reality the strong ones, and the people who most people regard as strong as in reality TRUELY weak, because worldly strength is an illusion.
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Posted Jul 28, 2011 - 7:12 PM:

Richard_Mcnair wrote:

Jesus didn't say the weak shall inherit the earth, he said the MEEK. Christian thought generally regards the meek as in reality the strong ones, and the people who most people regard as strong as in reality TRUELY weak, because worldly strength is an illusion.



And it is indeed this meekness which Nietzsche attacked, as well as the smug feeling that this meekness allowed a sense of moral superiority. Nietzsche's point: that your cat doesn't scratch you simply because he doesn't have any claws is nothing to get excited about.

And he also found this tendency represented most strongly by christ himself; who Nietzsche was astonished at for being "unable to be an enemy".

And as far as some of the "intepretations" of Nietzsche go (fortunately these are now mostly out of vogue), i.e. his affinity for military conquest, nationalism, or anti-semitism- these are at odds with fairly unequivocal statements made by Nietzsche in various places in his writings. I think adequate attention has been drawn to his sister's influence in grossly misconstruing many of Nietzsche's fundamental themes and positions.
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